Category Archives: Ahlers Center Fellowship

Studying Italian Culture & Economy in Florence – Emmalyn Spruce

Intersession 2017 lasted exactly 35 days. Yet, as I look back on the countless impactful experiences, unique perspectives, and new friends it has provided me, it feels as though it lasted a lifetime. The trip I participated in (USD’s Second Year Experience in Florence, Italy) began in January, but I was able to spend time traveling Europe with my roommates beforehand. We started in Amsterdam and worked our way down to Florence over the course of a week or so, spending a few nights in places such as Zürich, Switzerland and Stuttgart, Germany. Although the experience of traveling abroad without the help of a travel agent or pre-determined schedule organized by an experienced professional was a stressful, exhausting, eye opening and completely rewarding part of my time in Europe, I’ve decided to describe my academic experience abroad as a student of International Business.

My first and favorite meal in Florence

As a participant in the Second Year Experience, students are able to choose from a variety of different courses offered during the three-week long excursion to Florence. Each class is taught by a USD faculty member and students receive USD credit towards their core requirements or major/minor. In addition to attending class every day, we participated in a number of course-related trips, which included visits to local museums and monuments such as Michelangelo’s David and an interactive virtual reality art exhibit featuring the works of Gustav Klimt. We also had the opportunity to meet with the owner of Leonardo’s Leather Shop, a local store we partnered with to collect data for our final projects, which analyzed the statistical trends of the shop’s sales. Our schedule also included a number of free days on which we were permitted to explore Florence on our own or travel to other Italian cities and regions by train.

The Colosseum looks just as incredible no matter how cold it is, but I’ve provided photographic proof that we nearly froze in Rome.

On our second free day in Florence, we set out to walk from our hotel through the narrow, cobblestone streets in search of lunch. We took our usual path along the river towards the city center, but were stopped just before we arrived by a line of police cars blocking the road. Whistles were sounding and chants were being shouted in Italian. The policemen were casually standing around, smoking cigarettes and chatting by the edge of the square, keeping an eye on whatever was happening just around the corner. Upon seeing this we became less nervous about what we might find. I made my way through a thicket of parked bicycles and into the square, where an ocean of light blue and cherry red flags ebbed and flowed. I watched as the people who held them in the air wandered back and forth speaking to one another and trying to keep warm as the protesters funneled into a small side street towards the city center.

It took a moment to find someone in the crowd who spoke our language but, after a few minutes, the purpose of the protest was vaguely described to us in broken and heavily accented English. The middle-aged Italian man said that they were workers for a major textile companies. Their employers had promised them new contracts and when the time came to sign them, the companies backed out. They were advocating for workers rights and specifically for contracts with fairer wages. As we made our way towards our usual lunch spot alongside the protesters, we ran into Mateo, a graduate student whom we’d met at Florence University of the Arts. When I asked him what he knew about the demonstration he explained that employees from different textile and footwear companies across Italy had come together with the help of a number of different Italian labor unions to protest the non-renewal of contracts. He pointed out signs that different sections of the group were holding up, “For example, this group you can see is from Milan, and those over there are from Bologna. They have traveled here to protest together so their numbers are larger.” Upon rifling through some Florentine news sources, I discovered that there were a number of reasons why the protest took place in Florence. The union officials who helped to organize the event intended for the timing (it occurred on the same day as many of the Florence Fashion Week events) to encourage the consideration of the difference between those who are wearing and selling high-end Italian clothing, and those who make it.

We could see the protest continue later that day in Florence, closer to the city center.

Poverty was not something I expected to see very much of when traveling to Europe. I assumed that, because we would be spending our time primarily in tourist-heavy areas, we would not see much exposure to this particular economic issue. This was not the case. Everywhere we went individuals could be seen selling trinkets in the plazas, outside of museums, and next to monuments. Others frequented the same areas and begged for money instead. I noticed that the large majority of these individuals were not native Italians. Many of the people I spoke to were refugees from Senegal, Africa. Some of the people had lived in Italy for many years and selling these knick-knacks and souvenirs had been their only source of income, while others had just recently arrived and could barely speak Italian, much less English.

Based on articles found in domestic sources such as The Local Italy and foreign sources like The Wall Street Journal, Italian politicians are primarily concerned with both the current banking system and immigration. A series of bad loans has plagued Italian banks since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and they are still working toward recovery. In addition to a financial system that is constantly at risk, Italy has taken in a record number of refugees and asylum seekers over the past few years. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the number of unaccompanied minors fleeing their home countries and seeking asylum in Italy has doubled in the past year alone. Unstable banks, along with the recent influx of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, has caused major political upheaval in Italy and Italians debate solutions to these issues most frequently. It seems that many of the same economic, political, and humanitarian issues are prominent topics for discussion in both cultures. I was surprised to discover that economic stability and the immigrant crisis are major issues that both Italians and Americans are concerned with. Some of the other aspects of Italian culture, however, were much different from those in the U.S.

One of the most prominent differences in culture that I noticed and felt the need to adjust to was the emphasis on time. I noticed in many instances that, for Italians, time is most definitely not of the essence. I felt as though I was being rude when I asked for the check after a meal in a local restaurant, or decided not to have wine or dessert. In the U.S., we treat time as though it is an invaluable resource that must be utilized to its maximum potential. Every minute of my life is scheduled to a T, and meals in particular seem to be treated as a necessary evil that must happen as quickly as possible so as not to interrupt whatever important work needs to be done. I found that I had great difficulty adjusting to this particular aspect of Italian culture at the beginning of our trip, but by the end I was perfectly happy to spend two hours of my day enjoying a four-course lunch as we looked out across the beautiful Arno River.

We sat here for three and a half hours.

The academic aspect of studying abroad is thoroughly rewarding and I would recommend it specifically to those interested in international interaction. There are a few pieces of advice I would offer someone who is interested in studying abroad. The first is to make sure not to underestimate the importance of balance. Studying abroad isn’t exactly a vacation, but spending enough time on your academics will allow you to have a more educated understanding of your host country and its people. You will appreciate it in the long run. The second is to allow yourself room to deviate from the plan. Lose yourself in a city you don’t know, meet new people, ask for help, trust yourself and let yourself be vulnerable so that your time abroad changes you for the better.

To check out more student experiences, please visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Ahlers Center Fellows of 2016-17

Many students completed an extensive application and interview process last fall, and ultimately three were selected as Fellows because of their past accomplishments as well as for their perceived ability to succeed in the field of international business. This program will be offered yearly to international business (IB) majors and minors, and will give students a chance to further their academic development through experiential opportunities in this area. Once students are accepted to the program, they commit to participate in three international business related activities as Fellows. Upon completion of these activities, they are eligible to receive a scholarship during their final semester at USD. Further, once the students graduate from USD, the Fellows also commit to mentor future IB majors and minors in their efforts to build a global mindset at USD. Now let’s meet our 2016-2017 Ahlers Fellows!

Emmalyn Spruce

Emmalyn Spruce is a second semester sophomore at the University of San Diego majoring in International Business with a minor in music. She participates in a number of extra curricular activities on campus including USD’s Choral Scholars Program, the Academic Review Council, and the USD chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, Pre-Law Fraternity International. She is a California native who loves to find adventure in every aspect of life, although her favorites include those found in literature, economic inquiry, and travel. Through the Ahlers Center Fellowship Program, Emmalyn hopes to supplement her degree with valuable international experiences that will help her to grow both as a businesswoman and as an individual. She looks forward to giving back to the program post-graduation by serving as a mentor for future Ahlers Fellows.

Aman Chopra

Aman Chopra is currently a senior at the University of San Diego majoring in International Business & Marketing with minors in both Theatre Arts and Information Systems & Technology Management. He was born and raised in Mumbai, India, but has lived in several countries including Qatar, Singapore, the U.K., and the United States. Moving around the world has exposed him to the diversity of cultures and complexity of global business. Through the Ahlers Center Fellowship program, Aman hopes to improve his knowledge of international business and expand his network with highly influential people in the field.

Janaye Perry

Janaye Perry is a Sociology major with an International Business and Leadership minor. Her dream is to be able to work with international students on various conflicts, working towards peace and unity across cultures through hands-on work. Janaye’s career goal is working with international non-profits to best utilize her skills of fostering positive and productive group dynamics. Through the Ahlers Center Fellowship program, she plans to use her inclusive, ethical, and process-oriented skills to manage those from various cultural backgrounds and work effectively towards promoting a more peaceful world.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Ahlers Fellow Catharina Nilsson: Tijuana Service Immersion

You never know the circumstances another person deals with on a daily basis, unless you take the time to walk a day in their shoes. The Tijuana Service Immersion Trip that I took on Saturday, March 12th was staggering, disheartening, and awe-inspiring all at once. I learned that, just in a short distance from my comfortable home in San Diego, there is a community that lives with virtually nothing on the outskirts of a landfill in Tijuana, Mexico. I am very grateful to have been able to take part in this experience and want to inform others of the atrocious conditions that this community lives in, not only to educate, but also to instill a sense of initiative in order to take action in any way possible, to help others who aren’t as fortunate.IMG_9839

To start, I will give a brief overview of what the trip encompassed. The first activity, that my volunteer group and I engaged in, included getting involved with the Tijuana community by visiting a local “Scouts” group, much like Boys and Girls Scouts in the United States. We participated in many activities with the Scouts, such as listening to their ritual chants and watching some of the younger members receive honors, in the form of ribbons and sashes, for their achievements. It was a very joyous celebration as all of the Scouts would serenade each member as they received an award. We also sought to educate them more about renewable energy sources and helped them to distinguish between non-renewable, semi-renewable, and renewable. The Scouts split up according to age group, elementary school, middle school, and high school, in order to complete the task. The Scouts used magazines, markers, and other arts and crafts items to showcase their knowledge of these sources. At the end of the activity, two members from each group presented their posters and explained why they thought certain resources were better than others to utilize, in order to improve the sustainability of our planet. The Scouts were very cooperative throughout the activity and were also very curious about how our lives differed from theirs across the border. It was interesting to hear their opinions and views, as well as see the similarities between our interests and activities we enjoy. It was impressive to see that the Scouts were so committed, especially the younger ones still in elementary school, to being a part of a voluntary group that is both caring for their well-being and furthering their education.

The Tijuana trip also contained another component, where we traveled to a landfill on the far outskirts of Tijuana. Driving up to the site at first was astonishing, as it was so far from civilization and we were in a community that barely resembled what I would consider to be a normal “town”. My first thoughts were “Where are we?” and “I can’t believe that people live here”. It was beyond my scope of imagination to think of what life would be like residing next to a large pile of trash.IMG_9842 My volunteer group and I exited the van, taking in our surroundings, and then started to help organize and distribute clothing donated by a local organization to the impoverished community that lived around this landfill. After the community members chose their articles of clothing, we went on a tour of the “town”. We quickly found out that the community had no running water, no electricity, and only small little shacks to protect themselves from the sun, wind, and cold weather. Many of the children living in the community do not have birth certificates and have not had access to a formal education system, so they do not have any opportunity to engage in the real world, nevertheless are they even recognized as real citizens.IMG_9841 The community’s main function is to sort and burn trash that is deposited there by the other citizens of Tijuana. It was beyond saddening to see the conditions that they live in. Also, some group members and I witnessed a dog, who was on the brink of death, suffering on a dirt path while walking around the community. It was so difficult having to walk away, especially being an animal lover, knowing that there was absolutely nothing that we could do to help quell the dog’s pain. The dog’s suffering, however, was a wake up call, in the way that it sort of represents the incurable situation that all of the community members are in right now. I was glad that there is already an organization, the one we paired up with for this component of the trip, set up that was trying to find ways to help the community. The organization’s main goal is to spread the word about the community, and hopefully, get more people involved in its mission to help the community members live a better existence.

Reflecting back on the experience, I believe that the activities I participated in while on the trip were very eye-opening and gave me a better understanding of what other citizens of this world are going through, such as living in simultaneously depressing and mind-boggling conditions, and not having access to what I think are basic human rights, such as running water and an education.IMG_9844

I am very passionate about promoting sustainable practices and ethics, as I want to be able to give future generations the same opportunities that our current generations have, by helping to maintain a healthy planet that we will be able to live on for many years to come. I will always have the Scouts and the community living around the landfill in mind when trying to come up with better ways to combat our ever prominent issue of creating too much waste. I will also continue to brainstorm ways to increase impoverished communities chances of elevating their status by supplying jobs that require more than, in this case, just burning trash. It would be amazing to give the community members the opportunity to receive an education and to gain skills that are vital to use renewable energy sources that are beneficial for our planet and for their well-being. I believe in the power of word-of-mouth, and will continue to spread the message in order for others to see the major issue of creating too much waste, that is occurring not only in Tijuana, but also worldwide.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Ahlers Fellow Jon Bocketti: Hong Kong Intersession 2016

Jon Bocketti, a USD junior majoring in International Business, traveled to Hong Kong this January to take a course in International Economics.  These are his reflections and takeaways:

“During Intersession 2016, I took a whirlwind of an adventure to Hong Kong. With little knowledge of the Chinese territory, I packed my bags and hopped on the plane with high hopes of being fully immersed with new foods, smells and unique culture that defines the island nation. My decision to go to Hong Kong, as opposed to the other intersession study abroad programs available, was based off my increasing fascination in Asia as an economic entity and trade partner to the United States.

After a sixteen-hour direct flight from Newark, I landed in Hong Kong International Airport tired, hungry, but above all ecstatic to be starting my adventure. Arriving a day earlier than the start of the program it was up to me to find my way to the NTT House on the Hong Kong Baptist University campus. After a quick trip to the airport McDonalds, I took the airport express to Kowloon station. My excitement was clearly demonstrated as I was constantly shifting to the left and right of the train trying to get a glimpse of Hong Kong whizzing by in the night sky. After departing at Kowloon station, I frantically pulled out my directions to give to the taxi cab driver. His thick accent and limited knowledge of English solidified that I was no longer in familiar territory. After a few fast stops, turnarounds, and direction clarifications, I made it to a yellow painted, slender high rise that I would soon call my home away from home.

The next morning, I woke up to the sound of rain tapping the window. I got out of bed and quickly tore back the curtains to reveal a panoramic view of never ending skyscrapers stretching from Kowloon all the way to Hong Kong Island. I was ready to explore. I quickly got ready and took the elevator down ten stories to the lobby where I got to meet some of my fellow classmates. Our professor Dr. Gin gave us a very thorough tour of all the places around Hong Kong that might be of use to us during our stay. As we progressed throughout the day, I walked around feeling like I was separate from my body. How could I be here smelling, seeing, tasting something so different than just one day ago? This is a question I would consistently think about as I continued to experience what Hong Kong had to offer. This first day excursion set a perfect tone for the rest of the trip.

Jon HK 2

As an island nation, Hong Kong has a great connection to the sea. This picture shows the connection between the land and the sea, as well as the cultural fusion due to international trade.

After only a few days in Hong Kong, we all piled onto a bus to make our way into mainland China. After what felt like a five minute ride, due to a wonderful thing called jet lag, we arrived at the cruise ship terminal. The boat went so fast that we were gliding above the water, and this was not a small boat. In no time, I could distantly see the Macau skyline made up of the numerous casinos and skyscrapers, including Macau tower, the highest place in the world to bungee jump. Looking out the window on the bus, there were many similarities I could see between Hong Kong and Macau.




There was this unmistakable mix of east and west, not only in the buildings and the food, but in the people as well. In a city where my pre-conceived conceptions led me to believe Macau was just newly developed land, I was delighted to find and experience years and years of history in the ancient temple and maritime museum. Day quickly turned into night, and the neon lights lit up the dark sky.

Following a late night, I found my seat back on the bus and we headed to Zhuhai, China. Passport in hand, I passed through immigration once more and boarded yet another bus that was to take us to our scheduled company visit. Immediately I felt a sense of familiarity. I don’t know if it was the “California Noodle” restaurant that was situated adjacent to the bus, or the fact that, unlike Hong Kong and Macau, people in mainland China drive on the right side of the road. We soon arrived at MTU Maintenance, a large airline jet engine maintenance company. Seated at a large conference table, we were all introduced to the top management of the Zhuhai division. Being a half-Chinese, half-German company, it was interesting to witness and learn the dynamics and complexities of foreign business in China. The gentlemen giving the presentation were very knowledgeable and conducted themselves and the presentation in very German fashion. The presentation concluded, and we were led on a comprehensive facility tour, which included a venture into the wind tunnel where they test all the engines. After friendly goodbyes, we boarded the bus and made our way to Guangzhou.

Our hotel was lovely, with modern conveniences and amenities to satisfy any USD student. But, no matter how nice the hotel was in the inside, the harsh reality of a city blanketed in smog lay just outside the door. In the case of both Guangzhou and Shenzhen, I was able to put to use my Mandarin speaking skills. While these cities are located in Southern China, where Cantonese is the dominant dialect, it was not difficult to find Mandarin speakers. Walking into the Shenzhen fake market, I was in awe at the pure scale of the operation right next to the Chinese/Hong Kong border. Walking through the five story mall, you could feel the energy of the shoppers looking to find a fake designer handbag for a fraction of the cost. It was exciting to go into the markets and bargain for a lower prices using a mix of English and Mandarin. I believe the simple gesture of trying to adapt to the Chinese culture helped me score some really good deals. After sifting through all the little shops and pathways, we went traveled back to Hong Kong.

I woke up the next morning to the harsh reality that I was not on vacation that I was actually here to take a class, International Economics (ECON 333) to be more precise, taught by Dr. Alan Gin. I enjoyed taking this class, especially in a foreign country, because unlike some classes where it is all theoretical, the things I was learning in class were directly applicable to my Hong Kong experience. I learned how currency exchange rate can dictate so many aspects of international business. Hong Kong is regularly in the top three of the world’s busiest ports. We learned how Hong Kong became such an economic power, by looking at the effects of different economic policies, inflation, government intervention and how the supply and demand of currency can shift due to these factors. The material covered in the course will help me in my future career in international business, specifically when dealing with international contracts and exchange rates.

Jon HK 3

As a lover of photography, Hong Kong offered boundless opportunities to capture the “perfect pic.” The contrast between hard and soft, modern and tradition provides an outlet to take a picture that not only captures the beauty here and now in the present, but also captures the story and history of the people and landscape and how it all fuses in a way their either works or doesn’t function in today’s society.

While I could go on and on about my once in a life time experience in Hong Kong, I will briefly touch upon my top five highlights:

  1. Monkey Mountain – While this used to be a scheduled excursion for the program, it was later suspended because of potential risk.  So, naturally, that made us want to venture over and see the wild monkeys for ourselves. Stepping out of the cab, we were immediately greeted by over 10 wild monkeys. There was a large sign stating all the rules in regards to how to conduct oneself when around the monkeys, the most important being not to feed them. I soon found out that some of the monkeys were not friendly. I was viciously chased by a monkey at one point during the walk. I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast in my life. While this was a once in a life time experience, I left the mountain with my heart racing and a new found fear of monkeys.
  2. Victoria Peak– During our tour of Hong Kong with the entire group, we ventured up to Victoria Peak. On a sunny day the peak offers incomparable views of all of Hong Kong and the islands. Unfortunately for us, we could only see five feet in front of us because the peak was in the clouds. A group of us went back on a clear day to take in the spectacular views.
  3. Ozone– Being the highest bar in the world, Ozone offered 360 degree views of Hong Kong Island and a perfect spot to watch the light show.
  4. Night Markets– I went to countless night markets in Hong Kong. These offered a true taste of Asian culture. I was able to taste local street food, shop for things not found in commercial shopping malls, and truly feel transported from the modernity of Hong Kong.
  5. Singapore– While not part of the Hong Kong program, I decided to take a weekend trip to Singapore. It was amazing to see the similarities and differences between Singapore and Hong Kong, and how they both seem to be majorly successful.

Overall, I had the best time in Hong Kong. I hope to apply the physical skills I learned in my economics class, as well as the soft skills I learned throughout the interaction with the city and its locals in my future international business endeavors. Thanks to the wonderful staff, supervisors and the best group of students, I will forever cherish the memories I made in this dynamic city.”

Read more student blog posts about our Ahlers Fellowship and study abroad opportunities!

Visit our website for more information about study abroad.

Ahlers Fellow Matt Oney: The Dangers of Growing Too Big, Too Fast

“Navera, a start-up in San Francisco, recently tasked me with determining the viability of expanding their product internationally. The team wanted to find out whether potential revenues would outweigh the costs of adapting their product to fit a few select markets. To give you a bit of background, Navera works in the healthcare space, creating fun, user-friendly cartoons designed to help consumers better understand available healthcare options. It’s a really cool product, and they’ve seen great success within the US. In the everlasting pursuit of increased revenues, they’re looking to offer additional language support to target native Spanish-speakers.

I began by determining the potential market size that would be opened up by offering Spanish support. After Mandarin, Spanish is the second-most widely spoken language in the world, so there’s huge potential here, right? With over 400 million speakers and official language status in 21 different countries, Spanish could offer Navera the opportunity to tap into markets all across Europe, Africa, and South, Central, and North America.

I split the potential expansion into two different categories: (1) international expansion into Spanish-speaking countries in EMEA (Europe and the Middle East), and (2) Mexico and LATAM (Latin America). Everything looked great for EMEA. There are about 38 million native Spanish-speakers there, with only three varying dialects, all primarily located in Spain. Mexico and LATAM weren’t so bad, either. There are about 221 million Spanish speakers in the emerging economies within this region. And the rapidly rising population and income in these areas will only lead to greater demand for healthcare. The product fits, and the market is huge. Awesome!

However, the issue is there are so many variables to take into account before jumping into these markets. For one, the way healthcare works in the US is incredibly different from these countries. There are tons of government regulations and compliance codes, which we need to be familiar with before launching the product. Not to mention a severe lack of brand awareness, local Sales and Business Development teams, and cultural differences to take into account. Quite simply, launching internationally would be a huge task, on top of Navera’s current work domestically.

Scaling back, I decided to look just at the Hispanic population in the US. Sifting through the US Census data from 2015, I found that the market here, too, is huge. 62% of all Hispanics in the US predominantly speak Spanish at home. A huge number of these people simply can’t speak English fluently, and there really is a need for Spanish support here. Cutting the data down, I found that 5,500,000 of these Hispanics are over 18 (check), not fluent in English (check), and earn a salary (check), making them eligible for health care coverage through their employer.

I started to believe we should start expansion domestically. Navera had previously stated that they wouldn’t consider international expansion unless they were guaranteed at least $25M in revenue, which was starting to look bleak, given the major differences in healthcare internationally, compliance factors, operating costs, and cultural factors. Starting small, adapting the product by offering standard Spanish support, and targeting these 5,500,000 native Hispanics will give us a good benchmark of how successful this project could be.

The biggest thing I learned, through this research, was that you can never get ahead of yourself, especially when looking internationally. The market for selling to these overseas markets is undeniably huge, and very profitable. But the costs (mostly in terms of time and complexity) far outweigh the benefits, in the short-term. In this case, it’s smarter to start small, test the product within our current US market, and take it from there.

There I had it. I organized my findings and recommendations, presented them to the Head of Marketing, and helped to reinforce their decision to focus on the US market first. The biggest thing I learned, through this research, was that you can never get ahead of yourself, especially when looking internationally. The market for selling to these overseas markets is undeniably huge, and very profitable. But the costs (mostly in terms of time and complexity) far outweigh the benefits, in the short-term. In this case, it’s smarter to start small, test the product on Spanish speakers within our current US market, and take it from there.

Throughout my time working on this project, the team was incredibly supportive of me, offered me an abundance of internal data and information to use, and truly seemed to appreciate the findings that I provided them. Their international expansion hasn’t been terminated by any means – we’ve just taken a more cautious, measurable approach toward growth.”

Read more student blog posts about our Ahlers Fellowship and study abroad opportunities!

Visit our website for more information about study abroad.

The Ahlers Center for International Business Fellows of 2015

Many students completed an extensive application and interview process last fall, and ultimately two were selected as Fellows because of their past accomplishments as well as for their perceived ability to succeed in the field of international business. This program will be offered yearly to international business (IB) majors and minors, and will give students a chance to further their academic development through experiential opportunities in this area. Once students are accepted to the program, they commit to participate in three international business related activities as Fellows. Upon completion of these activities, they are eligible to receive a scholarship during their final semester at USD. Further, once the students graduate from USD, the Fellows also commit to mentor future IB majors and minors in their efforts to build a global mindset at USD. Now let’s meet our 2015 Ahlers Fellows!

Catharina Nilsson

Catharina Nilsson

Having lived half of her life in various countries in Europe, Catharina Nilsson is very passionate about traveling and learning about different cultures. She is highly curious and open-minded, longing to be immersed in new surroundings. Catharina is an International Business major with a minor in Marketing. Her goals in International Business are vast and never-ending, willing to do anything and go anywhere, as long as she can travel and be outside of her comfort zone. Through the Ahlers Center Fellowship program, she will be able to flesh out exactly what she wants to pursue in the future. Enjoying the psychology behind business, Catharina hopes to work in Public Relations for a global company or non-profit while supporting ethical practices.

Jonathan Bocketti

Jonathan Bocketti

Originally from Syracuse, New York, Jonathan Bocketti moved out to California for the wonderful weather and the opportunity to study at the University of San Diego. Currently a second semester junior, Jonathan is majoring in International Business with a minor in Supply Chain Management. He is keen on taking advantage of all the exciting events and opportunities both the university and the Ahlers Center have to offer. Joining the ranks of the past Ahlers Center Fellows, Jonathan aspires to continue to exude the traits of confidence and ambition to all future Fellows and to the USD community. He plans on studying abroad in Hong Kong during Intersession 2016, continuing as an executive board member for the International Business Club, and competing in the Fall 2016 CUIBE Case competition. Completing these three activities will not only push Jonathan’s learning to new heights, but will also provide a basis on which he can engage and mentor future Fellows and International Business Students.

We look forward to working with this distinguished group of young students, and to helping them prepare to be outstanding contributors in their fields upon graduation!


Ahlers Fellow Kayla Meijer: The Challenge & Reward of the CUIBE Case Competition

“The Northeastern CUIBE International Case Competition was by far the best thing I have ever done in my undergraduate career. It was extremely challenging, intimidating, and overwhelming, but that was all outweighed by the fun, excitement, and reward for our hard work during the trip.

When I was a freshman at USD, I was a member of the International Business Club. Upon hearing about CUIBE, I knew right away it was something I wanted to do, mostly because it was in my hometown of Boston, MA. I applied knowing full well that I wouldn’t be selected because I had not taken the necessary upper division courses and was far too inexperienced. However, I was hoping that whomever was reading my application would see that CUIBE was definitely something I was passionate about and truly wanted to do. When sophomore year came around, I applied again, and then again my junior year, knowing I wouldn’t be chosen but still hoping that my persistence was being noted and would eventually pay off.

I pushed myself to take the classes I needed to become eligible for CUIBE, to gain more knowledge in my upper division classes, and to become involved with the Ahlers Center. By the time the CUIBE application came around this year, I was finally ready. I worked hard on my application for the fourth and final time, and submitted it with a touch of anxiety, knowing that it was a very competitive opportunity. Although I felt much more confident about my submission at the time, I still had some nervousness that I might not be selected for the one undergrad opportunity I had been wanting for my entire time at USD.

On September 25 – arguably one of the most exciting days of my life – I received an email from the Ahlers Center and saw the first word: “Congratulations.” I was finally going to go to the CUIBE competition and complete one of my long time goals. Needless to say, I did a “happy dance” and probably embarrassed myself publicly. Laura Glennie, Michael Burrafato, and Enrique Contreras were the others selected to be in the competition and were my new teammates for this exciting ride.

I knew I was in for a tough few months, filled with practice and uncertainty, but when November 4th rolled around I was ecstatic. We got into Boston that Wednesday night on the 4th, and we were able to grab dinner and do a little exploration of the city before we went to bed. The next day, we had almost the entire day to explore the city, which was incredible and allowed us to relax before things really got interesting. We were given the case that night at a banquet with the rest of the teams and spent a few hours mapping out a game plan for Friday, which was our day of incredibly hard work.

We had until Friday (less than 24 hours) to decide what we wanted to suggest as consultants, create a thorough PowerPoint and strategy, and practice the presentation. We worked hard all day, stopping only for a short lunch at the delicious Union Oyster House in the North End of the city. We were able to finish and have time to sleep (some groups did not even get this luxury!). The next day, none of us could decide if it was anxiety or excitement we were feeling before our presentations. It quickly turned out to be pure excitement; after a lot of practice, we felt very confident about what we had to share with the highly esteemed judges. We presented to two different sets of judges, once in the morning and then again in the afternoon with lunch served in between.

On Saturday evening, the awards ceremony and networking reception was held in the hotel where everyone involved in the competition was staying. We got to know our competitors, the judges, and the team advisors, finding out where they were from and how they felt about the trip. We were then asked to take our seats for the awards ceremony.

They started with the 3rd place teams, which turned out to have come to a tie. One of the 3rd place teams happened to be another Southern California team from San Diego State University. Knowing that we didn’t get 3rd meant we did really well or we didn’t place at all – I thought my heart was going to pound out of my ears. In fact, my heart was pounding so loudly that I barely did hear the next name announced: 2nd place was the University of San Diego!

There aren’t words to describe the type of excitement and happiness we all were feeling in that moment. I felt like I was floating as we walked to the front of the room to receive our plaque and our “Winner” snapback hats (kind of a unique prize, but we liked them regardless!) and to get our picture taken. It was the perfect ending to make all of our hard work and stress pay off, and to show off the incredible talent that comes from the International Business program at USD. For me, it had an extra special touch because I had not only achieved my goal of going to CUIBE, but thanks to the caliber of my team and the education we are all receiving at USD, I was also a part of winning 2nd place at the competition of my dreams.”

Read more about our Ahlers Center Fellows on the Fellowship blog page!  For information about applying for this Fellowship program, contact Danielle Levanetz.

Ahlers Fellow Kayla Meijer: Intersession Abroad in Argentina

Over Intersession 2015, Kayla Meijer, an Ahlers Fellow majoring in International Business, studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Having taken away so much from her short time in Argentina, Kayla shared her many experiences and lessons learned abroad…

“Traveling to Argentina has been a dream of mine ever since the first day I arrived on campus as a freshman. I had friends who had gone there for study abroad and it seemed to me like the most amazing and unique place I could ever go. I finally got the opportunity when a class on the Latin American Business Environment (BUSN 494) was being offered in Buenos Aires over Intersession of 2015. It seemed like fate for me because I now had the prerequisites and it was in the place I had been hoping to go for years. It was my first time traveling internationally without my only world traveling companion, my mom, but I was excited. It would be a chance for me to apply all the travel skills she has taught me over the years and allow me to grow as an individual like never before (it also helped to know that she was going to come meet me at the end of my class so that we didn’t miss out on this adventure together).

I had booked a flight that landed at 1:00am in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and thought that this arrival time was not only a bit strange, but was also going to give me all sorts of problems. Turns out I was in for a big surprise when I learned that in this culture the time schedule was VERY different than it is the states. I ended up having quite a few dinners starting at midnight during my stay, which was just unheard of to me previously.

Another aspect to my trip that was unexpected but truly amazing was the new friend and Argentine family that basically adopted me during my stay. My now good friend Catie was traveling to Argentina for the class, but also to see her fathers’ side of the family that lives down there and that she rarely gets to see. Not only was Catie incredibly nice, she even let me hang out with her and her family, who treated me like I was just another member of the family. It was so refreshing to be a part of a family that was so accepting, welcoming, and warm, and it really spoke volumes to me about the country I was in; I was falling for Argentina fast.


My new Argentine family showed us all the good places to shop, eat, and tour while we were there, which was extremely helpful so that we maximized the short time we were there. In particular, my favorite experience by far on the trip was the night that Catie and I visited their first apartment (now office) to have empanadas and pizza on their gorgeous deck with the entire family. I not only learned a lot about this family, but of the culture as an extension, because they were so open and willing to talk to us about anything we wanted to know that we heard about in class. Lucky for us as well, they all spoke excellent English!

The business class itself was extremely interesting because it was so dynamic; we took a trip to the only Walmart in Buenos Aires to learn about the challenges a successful U.S. company faces abroad, had a variety of guest speakers, and also used case studies as our main mode of conversation and understanding of the Latin American Business Environment.

Walmart was really quite a wakeup call for us as undergrads, because it really hit home that just because a company can succeed in the U.S. does not mean it will succeed abroad. In fact, Walmart Argentina was failing miserably because the business model it was built upon does not apply in many other countries. Sure it’s always better to save money in stores, but what about when the population does not have the disposable income for the things sold at Walmart, or the space for things bought in bulk or the transportation to a megastore location? This was eye opening to a lot of us who hadn’t really considered these problems before, and allowed us to have conversations about why companies fail abroad and talk about their solutions or approaches to solving this. For example, Walmart decided that because people couldn’t afford and didn’t need the bulk sizes or the superstore, they tried a chain of smaller convenience-like stores that saw a bit more success. They also learned that the locals were coming to the store to eat at the restaurants inside, not necessarily to shop, and as such made a larger food court to keep their customers coming back, even if it wasn’t for their intended purpose.

Walmart Argentina

Though I have only touched on the tip of the iceberg of knowledge that was this trip and course, the most important thing I learned was that as a business person just entering into my career, I can never assume I know anything about a country until I have really put in the time and energy to get to know its people, history, and economics. While this may sound obvious to some, I think it is largely ignored in the business world today, causing many problems for businesses abroad and also for our own culture having a reputation as ignorant and aloof. It is important for us as the next generation to be mindful of how we interact in the business world, because every country is unique in its own way and deserves our attention, thought, and respect when entering it with our products and services. While it would be possible to write a novel about my experiences for just 3 weeks in one country, I think it would be much more beneficial for you to go out and experience it for yourself, so book a flight and I’ll meet you in Buenos Aires!”

Read more student blog posts about our Ahlers Fellowship and study abroad opportunities!

Visit our website for more information about study abroad.

Ahlers Fellow Kelly Wu: ABCs of International Trade Certificate Program

During the Spring 2015 semester, I-Shen “Kelly” Wu, a senior double majoring in International Business and Accounting, completed the ABCs of International Trade Certificate Program as one of her Ahlers Center Fellowship activities.  The program is a series of workshops designed especially for business students who have an interest, or emphasis, in international business and trade. These “hands-on” workshops are designed to supplement academic coursework in international business.  Kelly, an international student from Taiwan studying abroad in the United States for her degree, describes her experience and take-aways from this unique program offered by the Ahlers Center.

Describe the activity and the role you played:

“I was an active participant in the ABCs of International Trade Certificate Program. The program consists of five three-hour workshops that focus on the topic of International Business and Trade. The workshops feature different speakers whom are international business professionals in the field. Each workshop has different focus areas within international trade. The first workshop was about global supply chain and logistics. The speaker Joel Sutherland was humorous and engaging. He shared with us many of his personal experiences on how to add the most value to your product in the most efficient way through international commerce. The second workshop focused on international market entry strategies, especially with the business opportunities presented in Canada and Mexico that benefited from NAFTA. Speaker Kenn Morris gave us and an overview of NAFTA and presented us the importance of rules of origin and the associated regulations. The third workshop was about the financial aspect of international business and the operations and services of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. We get a closer look at how international payments and financing operate and understand the challenges that comes with it. The fourth workshop focused on international marketing opportunities and resources. We learned about strategies to do research, selection, and preparation before entering a foreign market. The last workshop was on the topic of export/import operations and documentation. We learned how to read the tariff schedule in detail, and were also able to identify different documents needed in order to export or import goods.

All the speakers were knowledgeable and enthusiastic in their presenting topics, many of them were able to set up case studies for students to work in teams and apply what we learned right away. The lectures are informative and the activities were fun. I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is interested in international business and trade!”

How will you be able to use what you learned from participating in this activity during your academic or professional career:

I-Shen Kelly Wu ABCs Certificate“The ABC’s of International Trade Certificate Program is a program that truly opens up your horizon to the real actions of international trade and commerce. It let me understand the complications and challenges when it comes to doing business internationally. However, the program also taught me that with thorough researching and careful planning, the opportunities beyond the borders are massive. With the improvements of technology, global trading is the trend now and in the future. I find the workshops on logistics and operations specifically interesting and useful. It is important to know the regulations and documentations of each country when you are trading internationally; some very basic mistakes can end up delaying your goods at the customs for a significant period of time. Many students/participants of the program are international students as well.  It was really interesting doing group projects or case studies together, because it created an even more realistic feel of doing “international” business. The program allows me to become more confident and comfortable working and presenting short projects with people coming from different backgrounds that often have diverse ideas and interesting thoughts. With the materials I learned from the ABCs of International Trade Certificate Program, I have become more knowledgeable of international trade and more aware of the challenges that may come my way when doing international business.”

Please see the following webpages for more information on the ABCs for International Trade Program and the Ahlers Center Fellowship Program!

From Asia to the United States and Back: An Intersession 2015 Experience in Hong Kong

Over Intersession 2015, I-Shen “Kelly” Wu, Ahlers Center Fellow double majoring in  International Business and Accounting, studied abroad in Hong Kong. An international student from Taiwan already studying abroad in the United States for her degree, she decided that she wanted to see and experience the cultural uniqueness and financial hub that Hong Kong has to offer. Kelly said, “Before my trip, I made the wrong assumption that there will be few cultural differences between Taiwan and Hong Kong. I went through a culture shock when I experienced the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Hong Kong. The way of life, how people value time and money, and the culture were all so new to me! Even within a similar geographical region, there is a radically different way of doing business and methods of approaching a client.”

Kelly exploring the famous ruins of St. Paul’s in Macau.

Once inside the classroom, her learning continued: “In the three-week long course taught by USD’s Professor Alan Gin, I learned about international trade, investment, and the usage and analysis of foreign exchange rates; I also studied international economic policies and the operations and challenges for multinational enterprises. I was able to conduct a foreign exchange rate analysis and prediction of currency, as well as understand and discuss critical arguments for and against international economic policies within the issues of globalization.”

The study abroad group in Guangzhou, China.

The study abroad group in Guangzhou, China.

Besides the academics of the program, the students went on a company visit to a multimillion-dollar department store in Shenzhen, took a comprehensive tour of the city, had excursions to Macau and mainland China, and attended an alumni reception. “One of the highlights of the program was the Hong Kong USD Alumni Reception. Not only did we get to meet USD alumni who are currently working or residing in Hong Kong, we also got to meet other USD MBA and MSRE students who were also studying abroad. It was a great event to socialize with alumni to understand how they ended up in Hong Kong,” said Kelly.

The undergraduate students at the Alumni Reception.

The students at the Alumni Reception.

Overall, Kelly’s study abroad experience was eye-opening and extremely beneficial to her future career goals. Kelly reflects, “The experience of the program was incredible. I was fortunate to go with a group of amazing fellow students, and be supported by warm and supporting faculty and staff onsite. My study abroad experience in Hong Kong 2015 was definitely one of the most enriching and memorable times of my life! I believe my newly acquired awareness of cultural nuances, education in international economics, and my connection with USD alumni have made me a stronger candidate in pursuing an international career.”